Feeling unseen by your boss? Here’s what you can do 

Jun 15, 2023 /

Ever have your hard work — including your successes — go unnoticed by your manager? Fixable, TED’s new podcast, is here to do just that — to fix the problems of everyday people who call in with their work woes.

In episode four, cohosts and top leadership coaches Frances Frei and Anne Morriss got to know Nai’a, a caller who struggled with receiving recognition after a major reorganization paired her with a new and preoccupied boss. Nai’a was going above and beyond to do her job well, but the lack of acknowledgement and encouragement — and even awareness — of her work was causing her to lose motivation.

Frances’s and Anne’s first piece of advice to Nai’a was simple: See the humanness of what’s going on — and of your manager.

“Sometimes the barrier to showing up as a great collaborator with your manager can be that there’s still some residual frustration about the situation,” Anne explained. “But that emotion is not going to be useful to you.”

Instead, they encouraged Nai’a to recognize the humanity of her manager and forgive them for making mistakes.

Frances and Anne also shared this strategy with her to practice: Choose curiosity over judgment.

Here’s how Frances put it: “You have a choice between judgment and curiosity, because both can’t exist at the same time. So if you have judgment about your manager, you can’t really be curious about their situation. And when you’re thinking of your manager as a person who’s got a lot of part-time jobs, how do we set them up for success?”

“The simplest expression of curiosity — which is truly a magical elixir in a workplace — is in the form of questions,” said Anne. For example, you could start by asking your manager what process works best for them to learn about your accomplishments and contributions. Or, you could focus on how you can make your meetings with them more productive by asking them, “How can our one-on-one time be of service to what we’re trying to achieve together?”

Another option: Be open about your concerns, and ask your manager what their vision of your success looks like. You could say something like, “Here’s my fear: I’m working really hard, and in this state of flux, I’m afraid that six months will go by and people are going to wonder whether or not I did a good job. So it’s just helpful for me to be clear — what is a good job and how can I help in getting that data for you?”

Across industries and across the world, many people are going through workplace reorganizations and other sweeping changes. And like Nai’a, it’s normal to feel anxious and stressed by what’s happening and to need to go through a readjustment period. Leading with questions — and seeing your boss as another human you’re collaborating with — can help you gain back some agency and autonomy.

“Try doing what you can, and marvel at how the other person changes as a result, as opposed to coming up with the list of how you would like the other person to change,” said Frances. “I think you’re going to be pleasantly surprised; that’s the beautiful part of this.”

No matter your job or business, you’ll find actionable advice on Fixable that can improve your workdays. In other episodes, learn how to overcome communication roadblocks, scale up your side project and lead more productive meetings. Plus: Click here for a chance to get your own work question answered on the show! Listen to Fixable now wherever you get your podcasts.

Watch Anne Morriss’s TED Talk now: 

Watch Frances Frei’s TED Talk now: